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September 2009

How Not to Treat Your Customers (a continuing series)

So my wife, Crystal, is on the phone with Dish Network, supplier of our Daily Bread:  football, reality television, Chris Cox horsemanship, the Food Network.  And she's reviewing our bill, looking for ways to save a few bucks each month.

Turns out, there's a five dollar charge on the bill, levied by our service provider, because we don't have our DIsh Network receiver hooked up to our phone line.  Never mind that there's no phone jack near the receiver.  Never mind that we nearly got rid of our phone line anyway.  Not Dish's problem.

Why do we need to plug our receiver into the phone line? So that we can order pay-per-view programming.  We never order such programming, but that apparently does not matter.  What matters is that we are preventing Dish Network from selling us their extra-cost programming.  And for that privilege, we pay.  Five bucks a month.

I remember the guys that would show up at our front door in the summer, saying they'd painted our house number on the curb and asking us for money.  We told them to go away.  They could learn something from Dish Network:  "Hey, I'm here to paint your house number on the curb.  Or for five bucks, I'll go away." 

What a business model!

Spammers: Idiots? or Just Rich Statisticians?

One of my fascinations (yes, I am a geek) is to look at the spam quarantine summary I receive every day from my MIT mail server.  (Off-topic:  they use Brightmail, now owned by Symantec, and their filters are very good.  I've never had a message trapped that was legitimate.)  I'm fascinated with the names people make up for "Sent From" and the subject lines.  You can scan through the headers and see patterns, so you know which groups of messages are all from the same spammer.

What finally sank in as I looked at today's batch:  spammers are idiots.  Or, they don't care if they're idiots because the my Law of Large Numbers ("any number times another large number is a large number", as opposed to the real Law of Large Numbers) works in their favor.

I'm not talking about the comical ways spammers try to tell you that they can improve the function of your penis.  That almost falls into the "cute puppy" category.  Nor am I talking about the messages claiming to come from "the Official Viagra site".

No, I'm talking about the messages offering me an online diploma.  See, they're sending it to my mail account.  As in, "I'm an alumnus of MIT".  Thanks, I'll stick with the degree I have.

Any human could look at a message headed for and think, "I bet this guy already has a degree.  May as well take him off our list".  And it can't be that hard to program a spam sending application to filter such domains out.

So c'mon spammers.  Spend a few bucks.  Hell, hire one of the CS grads you anointed to write the code.  Or just send me a photo of you lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill; I'll get the message.

and I did not approve this message

Remember those political campaign ads? How they had to end with "I'm Joe Cheeseball, and I approved this message"?  Well I've seen two commercials so far, that use the same (or nearly the same) clip of President Obama giving some kind of "stimulus" speech.  They then segue into a pitch for their service... in one case, credit card debt counseling (which you can get for free), and extended auto warranties (which are worthless) in the other.

I suppose video of a President's speech is considered in the public domain, so this is likely a legal use.  But it sure seems cheesy.  I guess this is the inevitable result of Billy Mays' passing.